Devotion to Our Lady of schools
The short history of Our Lady of the schools:
In 1894 A. Guyot, a parish priest from Burgundy (a region in France), who had founded Catholic schools in his parish, established a pious association, the Œuvre de Notre-Dame-des-Écoles, with the encouragement and blessing of Pope Leo XIII. It would seem that in France this association did not survive the movement to secularize religious schools undertaken by the government of Emile Combes at the beginning of the twentieth century.
In 1895, devotion to Our Lady of the Schools spread to Canada. Cardinal Taschereau, Archbishop of Quebec, primate of the Canadian Church, entrusted it to the Sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame, founded by Saint Marguerite Bourgeoys. In 1899, the Sisters place their new Normal School (a school to train future teachers), Notre-Dame de Montréal, under the patronage of Notre-Dame-des-Écoles. November 28, 1905 The Sisters submit the image of Our Lady of the Schools to St. Pius X. The pope approves it by blessing it with his hand. July 12, 1911 St. Pius X approves the dedication of the chapel of the Normal School in honorem Beatae Mariae Virginis Scholarum Patronae (In honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary, patroness of the Schools). In 1915, a marble statue by the Italian sculptors Giacomini and Balducci, designed after the image approved by Pius X, was placed in the chapel. This statue is still in the building of the Normal School, which has since become the Mother House of the Sisters, in a smaller chapel, where some Sisters faithfully continue the devotion.
On January 8, 1947, the Sacred Congregation of Rites granted the Congregation of Notre Dame the privilege of observing in their houses the feast of Our Lady of the Schools on the third Saturday of October or on one of the following eight days, and of having a solemn votive Mass of the Blessed Virgin celebrated. On October 24 of the same year, Pope Pius XII extended this privilege to all schools in the province of Quebec. At the request of the bishops of the Catholic Committee of Public Instruction, religious and lay teachers of Quebec, he proclaimed Our Lady of the Schools patroness of all schools and student youth in the province of Quebec.
On November 12, 1952, Pope Pius XII proclaimed Our Lady of the Schools patroness of all schools and student youth in Canada. He extended the liturgical privileges granted to Quebec to all of Canada. Wherever teachers are gathered for a congress or a study day, a mass of the Blessed Virgin can be celebrated.
On April 30, 1958, in the name of Pope Pius XII, Cardinal Léger crowned the statue of Our Lady of the Schools, exactly three hundred years to the day since the first school was founded in Ville-Marie (Montreal) by Marguerite Bourgeoys in a stable.
In 1961, Pope John XXIII granted a number of privileges to those who visited the Shrine of Our Lady of the Schools in Montreal.
Finally, on September 11, 1963, Pope Paul VI confirmed the privileges given by his predecessors and granted a Beatae Mariae Virginis a scholis mass.
A little anecdote about the intercession of Our Lady of the Schools:
On January 14, 2005, at 3:00 a.m., there was an explosion in Pointe-du-Lac, Quebec, which caused the death of one person and a major fire. At first, firefighters had great difficulty controlling the fire. Then one of the firefighters spotted a deteriorated statue of Our Lady of the Schools perched along the road. He asked for her help, and it was not long before the fire was brought under control, which the fireman did not hesitate to attribute to the Virgin’s help. The statue is now in the cemetery in the village of Pointe-du-Lac, Quebec.
- Histoire de la Congrégation de Notre-Dame, vol. XI, tome II, p. 491-492.
- École normale Jacques-Cartier, 1899-1949, Archives de la Congrégation de Notre-Dame, p. 47.